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Piedmont Earth Day Fair sees big turnout in Winston-Salem

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Salem College student Emily Gilmore greets people at the Piedmont Earth Day Fair while wearing a shirt and head piece she made out of plastic grocery bags. She fashioned the outfit out of 500 bags, which is what the average American goes through in a year. The project took her about 20 hours. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After Friday afternoon’s stormy weather, Kristen Wiggins, the executive director of the Piedmont Environmental Alliance and one of the organizers of the Piedmont Earth Day Fair, was thankful for the warm weather and sunshine that Saturday brought.

The fair was held at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. Wiggins estimated that the event drew a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 people who came out to learn about being more environmentally friendly.

One of the goals of the fair was to have zero landfill waste. The vendors used only items that could be recycled or composted. There were stations around the fair where items could be separated for those purposes.

“Last year, we had 8,000 people at the fair and only one bag of landfill waste,” Wiggins said. “This year, we hope to have none.”

More than 100 vendors had items and information about what people can do to help preserve the environment.

Volvo Trucks had a road tractor that did not give off a diesel smell when running. Wildlife Rehab Inc. showed birds that had been injured and were undergoing rehabilitation. Groups gave away reusable bags.

Peter Gallins of Gallins Family Farm took such compostable items as paper plates, cups and food waste to his farm in Davie County to turn it into compost.

“Anything that’s been organic can be used for compost,” Gallins said.

He said it takes about six months for the items to break down into dirt. This is the third year that Gallins has been at the fair and taken the compostable material home with him.

“It generates a decent amount of compost,” he said.

Other vendors took the recyclable items.

A lot of work goes into putting on the fair. Wiggins said a group of volunteers began working in October on such areas as the theme of the fair, contacting sponsors, logistics, marketing and children’s activities.

“They are fantastic to work with,” she said.

Wiggins, who has been with PEA since November, said that the fair began nine years ago and was held in the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church on Robinhood Road. Since then, it has grown large enough to move to the fair grounds. She said that the growth of the fair is a tribute to the interest and commitment by area residents to focus on the environment.

Stacy Stevens of Winston-Salem said she came last year and found it to be a good family outing. While her daughter volunteered at one of the booths, Stevens enjoyed looking at the different areas of sustainability. Her family has a raised bed garden and made rain barrels to water it.

“Using the rain water really makes a difference for the garden,” Stevens said. “It doesn’t have the chemicals that the city water has.”

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